Karima "Ruby" el-Mahroug, a teen prostitute and runaway, was due to testify for the defense of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's ANSA news agency reported Tuesday.
Berlusconi, 76, is on trial for allegedly having sex with el-Mahroug when she was 17 and underage, and allegedly abused his power on her behalf. He has denied the charges. Prostitution is legal in Italy.
El-Mahroug's lawyer, Paola Boccardi, said her client was vacationing in Mexico with her partner and child and would be available to testify in January. She said, as of Monday, she had not heard from el-Mahroug.
"I tried to get in touch with the girl, but her cellphone is off, as is her boyfriend's. She sent me an SMS saying she is abroad, but I do not have documentation of this trip and I don't know when she will return," Boccardi said.
Prosecuting lawyer Ilda Boccassini asked to have el-Mahroug removed as a witness and said Berlusconi's lawyers orchestrated the girl's absence in order to delay the trial. Berlusconi announced plans last week to run for Italian prime minister again.
"This absence is not documented ... this is a strategy to prolong the trial time to reach the electoral campaign," Boccassini said.
The presiding judges said they plan to summon el-Mahroug again Monday because her testimony is "neither superfluous nor irrelevant," though the summons could be postponed until the new year.
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